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  • Writer's pictureJessyca Stoepker

Aboard the California Zephyr

As many of you know, I’m currently chugging over to California via Amtrak for a few weeks of solo vacation. My bus left from Grand Rapids at 7 a.m. Friday, and the train in Chicago departed at 2 p.m. If all goes well, I’ll be arriving in Sacramento around 3 or 4 Sunday afternoon (fingers crossed). I’m one of the few people on here travelling that far.

Once the weather cleared up and we made it past the seemingly-endless gloom and cattle feed lots of Illinois and Iowa, it was much more pleasing to look out the window. I’ve already taken hundreds of pictures--probably annoying my neighbors with every camera shutter, but oh well.

Saturday was especially spectacular. I spent the entire morning, afternoon, and evening snapping away, hopping seat to seat when necessary, and just gazing. I was amazed by how many different landscapes I saw...I had always wanted to go to Utah and to Colorado, but I didn’t even realize that my California ride would allow me to be this immersed in other parts of the western countryside. Some of the views you can only access by train--like the Gore Canyon, unless you are an expert kayaker.

While there were (and continue to be) quite a few delays--one of which caused by a large rock that had fallen onto the tracks near Glenwood Springs--it was actually perfect timing: as we were leaving the gorgeous canyon faces and plateaus of Utah, the sinking sun shone rose gold on the rocks, further enhancing their natural dusty red. The giant formations created beautiful silhouettes as well that a camera could never do justice.

It’s an understatement to say that America has an amazingly array of diverse geological features. In mere hours I traveled from grassland and prairie, to scrubland, to steep wooded mountains, to dry and desolate red canyonland. I would have believed you if you told me the peaks and gorges and valleys of southern Colorado and northern Utah, dotted with cows and abandoned sheds and old railroad cars, were not in the United States but thousands of miles away in Uzbekistan or Australia.

And there’s so damn much of it all. This land just keeps going. It makes me want to explore every inch.

Right now, the next leg of my journey is to transfer trains in Sacramento, hop on a thruway bus in Hanford, and then crash at my Visalia Airbnb with a few hours of rack time before Monday morning. I really, really hope that this crew can make up for hours lost so I don’t miss my transfers. I’m banking on the fact that they are all coordinated through Amtrak and therefore might be forgiving (or at least refund me).

Wish me luck!


My internet has been spotty at best, so I'm finally posting this AFTER I boarded in Sacramento! And in case anyone is wondering it is 95 degrees and I burned walking between platforms lol.

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